Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Some initial thoughts on the very strange medium of game poems

Off and on, over the last few months, I have been looking at game poems. It started out with the book 24 game poems by is. I also have a feeling that some of the games in the in the mix tapes would be considered game poems as well.

A game poem is a role-playing experience that is designed to last between 15 minutes and an hour and to evoke a specific emotion or experience as opposed to telling a story.

Somehow, I am not surprised that game poems apparently came out of the Norwegian school of gaming. I have never actually played a game from the Norwegian School but they have always struck me as being the complete opposite of escapism. They always seem to be trying to evoke the strongest emotional response possible.

Honestly, I don't know what to think about game poems. Frankly, if I only have 15 minutes to spend with my friends, I would rather pull out a boardgame like Love Letter or Cinq-0 or Pico 2. I do like short form role-playing games like Barron Munchaussen and I really want to try Murderous Ghosts.

However, game poems shave away so many of the things that actually interest me in role-playing games. In particular, the collective storytelling aspect. Part of me even wonders if I can even consider them to be role-playing games. However, they do ask you to take on a specific character and walk at least a few steps in their shoes.

Allegedly, the very first game poem was Stoke - Birmingham 0-0, which  was first published in a collection of 17 Norwegian school role-playing games appropriately called Norwegian Style.

In it, you spend 15 minutes playing the role of Stroke supporters who are going over to England to see an incredibly boring tied soccer match. You are encouraged to have a pint of beer while you do this and required to not say anything interesting. No confessions of infidelity or true love or being a vampire. Just sit there and dwell on a really meh soccer game.

I've pretty much made it a hobby to find quirky little role-playing games that offer something different. There's no denying that this qualifies. There's also no denying that I can't see myself ever playing it.

But having said that, I am glad that I took the time to look it up and read the one page that it consists of. I like the fact that we live in a world where this can even exist. I would even go so far as to say there is a crazy form of brilliance in making a game like this.

This isn't an example of true art is incomprehensible. Stokes - Birmingham 0-0 is incredibly comprehendible. It takes an experience that anyone can relate to, even if they're not going to soccer or sports, and asks you to experience it as a snapshot of life. The utter banality of it is why it is so universal.

Ever since I first discovered the idea of indie RPG's, which actually took place years after I actually played some indie RPG's, I have enjoyed exploring just what you can do with the medium of role-playing games. The whole Norwegian School and game poems in particular explore ground that I never knew existed.

Stoke et al isn't a game I can see myself ever playing. Game poems will probably never be my thing. But I can't look away.

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